Undercover Oakland, Calif., officer shot, killed during burglary investigation

Death of four-year police veteran 'cuts deep' mayor says

Oakland Police Officer Tuan Le, 36, was killed in a shooting while helping investigate burglaries in the city's waterfront entertainment district just four days after Christmas. Photo courtesy Oakland Police Department/Facebook
Oakland Police Officer Tuan Le, 36, was killed in a shooting while helping investigate burglaries in the city's waterfront entertainment district just four days after Christmas. Photo courtesy Oakland Police Department/Facebook

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- An undercover Oakland, Calif., police officer is dead after being shot while while responding to a break-in at a business in the city's waterfront entertainment district, authorities say.

Officer Tuan Le, 36, was shot Friday and died shortly afterwards while surrounded by family members and his fellow officers at Highland Hospital in Oakland, the department said in a statement.


The shooter remains at large, while two men suspected in the alleged burglary were arrested and remain in custody.

Police said they have collected a wealth of evidence at the scene of the shooting but did not provide details.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao called for unity and urged the community to support the slain officer's family "during this extremely difficult time."

"Oakland. This loss cuts deep," she said in a statement. "This senseless murder of this police officer, one of the guardians of our beautiful city, it will not stand. Oakland will work tirelessly with all of our law enforcement partners to find those responsible for this assault in our city, and the killing of our officer."


On the night of the shooting, Le was working as part of a team assigned to Jack London Square to crack down on burglaries, according to Interim Police Chief Darren Allison.

The unit received a report of a break-in at a cannabis dispensary around 1 a.m., but when they arrived initially nothing was amiss.

Hours later, around 4:30 a.m., another alarm went off at the same business, prompting plainclothes officers, including Le, to check out the site again.

This time, they encountered a small crew of bandits, one of whom fired several shots toward the officers and hit Le, who was sitting in the driver's seat of an unmarked squad car, Allison said.

None of the officers returned fire.

The gunman fled as Le's partners rushed him to the hospital to try to save his life, but he was pronounced dead at 8:45 a.m.

Authorities have not revealed where Le was wounded, and it was unclear how many times he was shot. Police kept the roads blocked near the crime scene late into the afternoon as the investigation continued.

Local police union president Barry Donelan said the law enforcement community in Oakland is devastated.

"Let's be clear that no stone will be left unturned in an effort to find the culprits to bring them to justice in this case," he said.


Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price called Le's murder a "tremendous tragedy for our entire community" and vowed to bring the killer to justice.

"The deadly violence that we have experienced in Oakland in recent years has no place in Alameda County," Price said in a statement.

Le was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1987, and immigrated to Oakland as a child, and he became a naturalized citizen on the same day as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He joined the Oakland PD in 2019, after which he completed training and graduated in the 183rd Police Academy in February the following year.

Two years ago, Le began working as a community resource officer in West Oakland, the department said.

"His passing leaves a void in the law enforcement community, the city of Oakland, and in the hearts of those who knew him," the department said in a statement posted to Facebook. "He will be remembered for his kindness, his smile, and the positive change he brought to the lives of those around him. He is a true hero who dedicated his life to making our community safer."


Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered flags at the State Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Le.

"Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn the tragic loss of one of Oakland's finest," Newsom said in a statement. "On behalf of the entire state, Jennifer and I offer our deepest condolences to Officer Le's family, colleagues, and the entire community of Oakland as we mourn the loss of a courageous public servant."

On Friday, throngs of Oakland officers led a procession to transport Le's body from the hospital to the coroner's office for an autopsy.

Le is survived by his wife and his mother.

His death marked the 54th killing of an Oakland police officer in the line of duty, and the first since March 21, 2009, when four officers were shot and killed during a traffic stop and a subsequent raid to catch the suspect.

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